Our One Hundredth Year
Old Logos
The People’s Theatre in 2011,
as it celebrates its
one hundredth birthday

This page written and produced by Martin Collins, People's Theatre Archivist

The year 2011 marked the 100th year of continuous functioning of theatre through the auspices of the Clarion Drama Clubs and as the independent People’s Theatre and People’s Theatre Arts Group.

It began in 1911 when socialism was a brash newcomer to the political scene which attracted many young people with exciting ideas and no money. Socialism on Tyneside was nearly broke. To raise money they had resorted to running dances that anyone, even Tories and Liberals, could attend. A higher standard of fund raising was required by some in the movement.

It was suggested that the local socialists should put their talents to earning money by mounting a play which would both educate and entertain. Two short plays were selected. “The Bishops Candlesticks” was an adaptation of one of the stories in Victor Hugo’s “Le Miserables” while the other “Pot Luck” was a polemic about a poacher and the landed gentry. In June 1911 the two plays were staged in the socialist rooms in Leazes Park, Newcastle upon Tyne. They were so successful that they staged them again in August making the handsome sum of fourteen shillings and six pence (aprox. £80 by today's prices). There was obviously money for the cause in this drama thing!

One of the branches of socialism was the Clarion movement based upon the utopian socialism of Robert Blatchford. The Clarion movement took the idea that the socialist revolution could be achieved while enjoying yourself and so promoted enjoyment in such things as sports and the arts. Sports such as swimming, football and, most importantly, cycling were followed, along side singing in choirs and glee clubs and the drama clubs. As they were going to continue with drama the Newcastle Clarion Drama Club was established and a play “The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet” by the socialist playwright Bernard Shaw was chosen to be its first offering to the public of Tyneside.

One hunded years later, with a new name and four different homes under our belt, what was begun in Leazes Park is still going strong. This is the story of our Hundredth Birthday year. All profits raised from it will go towards the refurbishment fund for our present home. We need four million pounds (£4,000,000) to provide us with a home that will take us well into our second hunded years. And if you enjoy this and perhaps have a million stuffed in a mattress that you don’t want then the People’s Theatre can put it to good use.

Our Theatres in the 20th. century Frieze

Our Centennial Season

On a cold and snowy January night the People’s Theatre Centennial season began with a production of G. Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.”

It was thought that as G.B.S. had such an influence on the development of the theatre it was only fitting that we begin with one of his plays.
Pygmalion was not the first of Shaw’s plays that the Newcastle Clarion Drama Club performed, that privilege goes to one of his one act plays “The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet “ which, at the time, was a controversial choice as it was under a Lord Chamberlains ban. Indeed, Pygmalion wasn't even the second or third of Shaw’s plays, these being “Major Barbara” and “Candida.” We didn’t get around to “Pygmalion” until January 1915 after which it became one of the company's most produced plays, this being our 11th production and the Young People’s Theatre have also produced it a number of times.
2011 Cast
Clara Eynsford Hill - Alison Carr
Mrs Eynsford Hill - Karen Elliot
The Bystander - Jake Wilson Craw
Freddy Eynsford Hill - Sean Burnside
Eliza Doolittle - Anna Dobson
Colonel Pickering - Steve Robertson
Henry Higgins - Roger Liddle
Mrs Pearce - Kate Wilkins
Alfred Doolittle - Keith Wigham
Mrs Higgins - Val Russell
The Palourmaid - Emily Dunlop

Into the dark season of February and a complete change of tack for our next production.

Martin McDonaghs “Beauty Queen of Leenane.” is described by the director as a fine addition to the drama of horror and violence. - It certainly provoked some comments!
This was our first production of this play although we have produced a number of McDonaghs other plays such as “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” and “The Pillowman.” His plays always depict a degree of cruelty and Beauty Queen is no exception.

I am sure that his plays will form an important part of our canon of plays for some years to come.
2011 Cast
Mag Folan - Anne Cater
Maureen Folan - Moira Valentine
Ray Dooley - Joe McLaughlin
Pato Dooley - Peter Harrison

The company's first attempt at doing Shakespeare was “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in 1921.

Since then we have done most of the old bard’s plays although we still have some left to do.
This was our sixth production of the Dream. Our first production of “A Midsummer's Night Dream” was in 1946 when the shadow of the second world war was still dark. Things were hard to come by but, as a member of the cast back then said “Parachute silk covered a multitude of sins."

There have been a number of notable Shakespears over the years and some such as “Julius Caesar” have gone down in infamy, but Shakespeare is always good fun.

Over the next hundred years there are sure to be many more productions of Shakespeare's plays.
Cast 2011
Philostrate - Andy AikenHippolyta - Sarah Scott
Theseus - Andy GlanceyEgeus - Phil Modes
Hermia - Lauren BreeseLysander - Kier Shiels
Demetrius - Anthony MorrisHelena - Ellie Pullen
Quince/Prologue - Steven WallaceBottom/Pyramus - Keith Wigham
Flute/Thisbe - Dan LentellStarveling/Moonshine - Martin Collins
Snout/Wall - Jake Wilson CrawSnug/Lion - David Cogan
Puck - David RacePeaseblossom - Sarah Davison
Oberon - Craig RichardsonTitania - Dani Cancelliere
Cobweb - Lorraine JukesMoth - Grace Robson
Mustard seed - Heather CarrollJuniper - Helen Rogers
Gobby, Oberon's Servant - Tom Carr
Bianca, Lady in waiting to Hippolyta - Barbara Johnson Emilia - Emily Foster
Diana - Diana McMahonLeonardo - Lewis Cuthbert
Jacques - Jonathan ShawEnnessa, Attendant to Theseus - Vanessa Sherrifs
Elena, Attendant to Theseus - Helen Poole

One act plays have been somewhat neglected by us over the last few years so for the centennial we produced four brand new ones.

And very successful they were.
These four one act plays cover a range of subjects including part of our own tradition . Bernard Shaw’s play “Saint Joan” has formed an important of our development and in Philip Meak’s “Keeping up with the Joan’s” this little tradition has been explored in an interesting way. We haven't produced “Saint Joan” for some time now, but let us hope that she will grace our stage once again in the not too far distant future. Each of the other plays has something of interest to say and shows that there is life in the one act play yet.
2011 Casts
A Spoonful of Honey
Lillian (99) - Pat Haggerty
Lillian (30) - Nicky Dexter
Lillian (24) - Francesca Tomlinson
Never Rains but it Pours
Meredith - Louise Shirley
Lyn - Jo Kelly
Cari - Emma Watson
Wordsworth's Sister
Dorothy Wordsworth - Karen Elliott
Dot - Christine Holland
Dora - Kelly Godfrey
Keeping Up With The Joan’s
Zillah Mint - Val Russell
Kitty Feathers - Anne Cater
Gary Chitterling - Sean Burnside

Controversy has never prevented the theatre from mounting a good play and “A Clockwork Orange” is no exception
Over the years the theatre has explored a wide range of utopias and dystopias from Shaw’s “Back To Methuselah” and Karel Capek’s “R.U.R.” through to George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm.” However, none of them were quite as controversial as “The Clockwork Orange” with its comments about violence from both sides of the divide.

Of course it could be argued that all plays are either utopian or dystopian, it just depends on how you look at them.
Cast 2011
Alex - David Robson
Droogs/Policemen - Jimmy Hutchinson, Ricky Harrison, Michael Blair
Steward - John Macdonald
Victim/Mother - Katie Wilkins
Author/ Dr Brodsky - Peter Harrison
Victim/Doctor - Julie Croney
Chaplain - Chris Goulding
Mr Deltoid/Minister - Leigh McDonald
Governor/Singer - Gavin Mills
Guard/Milk Bar Owner - Jonathan Shaw
Singer/Policeman/Party Member - Louis Cuthbert
Drunk/Comedian/Policeman - Jake Wilson Craw
Jo/Gang Member - Caroline Abbott
Gang member/Doctor/Prisoner - Tom Carr
Woman in House - Dianne Edwards

The company has always been associated with the best, old and new, and Lee Hall is one of the new best.

Of course it helps when you know the teacher who had a powerful influence on the lad at school.
One of our leading directors was Lee’s teacher and so he has always had a connection with the People’s. The previous play of his that we performed was “Cooking With Elvis” in 2003. We are sure that “The Pitman Painters” is not going to be the last of his work we will be mounting
Cast 2011
George Brown - Harry Gilbert
Oliver Kilbourn - Pete McAndrew
Jimmy Floyd - Steven Robertson
Young Lad / Ben Nicholson - Steven Wallace
Harry Wilson - Mike Smith
Robert Lyon - Matthew Cummins
Helen Sutherland - Val Russell
Susan Parks - Grace Robson
Musicians: Dave Kendall, Jed Sanderson, Tom Rushton and the Ashington Colliery Band

When one of our founders said that "if we are to murder plays then let’s murder the best" we sometimes wonder what he had in mind.

Certainly not this wonderful play, which we certainly did not murder.
This is the theatres second production of Piaf the first being in October 1982. This wonderful biography of the French singer Edith Piaf brings home all the heart that can be felt when she sings her songs of ice and fire. It was wonderful also that we had an actress whose voice and dramatic skills matched up to it.
Cast 2011
Edith Piaf - Jenny Strawson
Toine - Lauren Breese
Marlene - Francesca Tomtinson
Louis Leplee - Andy Aiken
Emil, Georges, Jacques - Simon Stevens
Legionnaire, Cerdan - Leigh McDonald
Jean, Boxer, German Soldier - Ricky Harris
Little Louis, Yves - Peter Cornish
Eddie, Dope Pusher - Tom Carr
Police Inspector, Doctor - Colin Cuthbert
Bruno - Michael Blair
Raymond, Charles - Jake Wilson Craw
Louis - Stuart Laidler
Madeleine - Sarah McLane
American officer, Lucien - Steven Wallace
Nurses - Dianne Edwards, Val Russell
Monsieur Vaimbert - Tom Robson
Theo, German Soldier - Joe McLaughiin
Accordionist - Lucy Falkenau
All other parts played by members of the company

Another first for the stage, this time from the theatre’s President Michael Chaplin.

The Chaplin family has had a long association with the People’s Michael’s father Sid, preceded him as President and his mother is a long term member.
Sid Chaplin’s “In Blackberry Time” and “Close the Coalhouse Door” have been produced by both the People’s and the Young People’s theatres. Their sassy blend of northeast country lore and humanity are reflected well in Michael’s work. Originally written for the radio “The Song Thief” has transferred well to the stage.

Cast 2011
Abel Humble - Steve Robertson
Stephen Haggard - Matthew Cummins
NB: Due to illness the part of Stephen Haggard was taken by Peter McAndrew
Dodd Armstrong - Peter Harrison
Mary Humble - Catherine Dryden
Lady Plenmellor - Moira Valentine
Doctor Fairless - Mark Buckley
Willie Sparke - Christopher Goulding
Bella Sparke - Sarah McLane
Lord Plenmellor - Christopher Goulding
Other parts : Gavin Mills, Miranda Baity-Taylor, Leigh Denley, Lorraine Jukes, Tom McLaughlin and Bryan Watson
MUSICIANS Paul Knox (Fiddle & Northumbrian Pipes), Theo Gibb (Melodeon)

Nicholas Nickleby may not be our first venture into the world of Charles Dickens but it is the biggest by a long way.

A glorious romp over two nights gave us something special.
Our first venture into Dickens was “A Christmas Carol” produced in 1973. Since then his work has cropped up on a regular basis. The Young People’s Theatre has tapped the Dickens resources as well, especially doing Oliver Twist - it was just made for all those kids.
Nicholas Nickleby is something on a different level. Most adaptations of books on stage limit the scope of the story, this production gave us the opportunity to give the book its full worth as a play.

Cast 2011
Nicholas - Sam Hinton
Kate Nickleby, Miss Bravassa - Katie Cervenak
Mrs Nickleby - Karen Elliott
Ralph Nickleby - Michael Short
Newman Noggs - Gordon Russell
Miss LaCreevy, Mrs Grudden, Peg - Pat Haggerty
Smike - Sean Burnside
Charles Cheeryble, Pluck - Andrew De'Ath
Squeers, Sir Mulberry Hawk - Paul Carding
Mrs Squeers, Mrs Crummies - Maggie Childs
Fanny Squeers, Miss Snevellicci - Sarah Scott
Tilda, Mobbs - Aoife Kennan
Belling, Col. Chowser - Jake Wilson Craw
Miss Knag, Mrs Wittiterley - Elisabeth Hack
Crummies, Arthur Gride - John MacDonald
John Browdie, Pyke - Michael Blair
Mme Mantalini, Hannah - Val Russell
Manatalini, Folair - Roger Liddle
Ned Cheeryble, Cobbey - Tony Dowling
Bolder, Infant Phenomenon - Sarah Douglas
Mr Wittiterley, Mr Lenville - Stuart Douglas
Madeline, Jennings, and others - Laila Zaidi
Lord Verisopht, Frank Cheeryble - Anthony Morris
Walter Bray, Tim Linkinwater - Robin Lewsey
All other parts played by members of the company

Two men in a South American jail cell may not strike you as the best of plots, however you will not have taken into account imagination, and just what a man's mind can create.
This little gem of a play seemed to fall off the radar and performances of it became few and far between. Maybe it was the Musical, maybe the film: it doesn't matter because it is back. This is the second production of Puig’s work of imagination and its impact hasn’t diminished, indeed, only the geography has changed.

If you don’t shed a tear at the end you have a wooden soul.
Cast 2011
Molina - Pete McAndrew
Valentin - Michael (Reg) White
Guard - Vinny Simpson
Warden - Mark Buckley

The kids are all right - well these ones certainly are.

The Young People’s Theatre is nearly 50 years old and they have produced some fantastic theatre in that time and this one live up to form.
The first stirrings of Youth theatre began in the 1960s and the People’s was in the forefront of the movement. What began in the 1960s was a grand actor factory producing a range of performers and technicians. Hollywood film star Andrea Riseborough, stand up comedian Ross Noble and musician Neil Tennant are but three who have gone on to the bright lights of stardom, over the years numerous actors and stage technicians have made their start with the Young People’s Theatre.

Cast 2011
Bugsy Malone - David Ward
Fat Sam Stacetto - Lauren Gillen
Tallulah - Sarah Morrow
Dandy Dan - Lara Cowler
Blousey Brown - Grace Dickson
Captain Smolsky - Rachel Kirk
O'Dreary - Anna Carmlchael
Fizzy - Alex Crozier
Tillie - Jess Rootham
Lorctla - Jess Smith
Dotty - Mairi White
Knuckles/Priest - Anna Robinson
Cagey Joe - Michael Critchlow
Leroy - Thomas Knight
Bangles - Iona Jenkins
Bronx Charlie/Lena Marelli - Victoria Knibbs
Pop Becker/Shady/English Reporter/ Down and Out - Kirsty Farr
Velma/Radio Announcer - Emily Ritchey
Seymour Scoop/Louella/Barmaid Jo - Celia Bouch
Undertaker/Ventriloquist/Down and Out/ Boxer - Bethany Neilson
Ritzy/Down and Out/Boxer - Nathalie Fyfe
Snake Eyes/Down and Out /Waitress - Natalie Kirsopp
Dummy/Down and Out/ Louis/ Dancer/ Soundman - Megan Watt
Doodle/Down and Out/Dancer - Amber Usher
Plckett/Gang Member/Barber/Boxer - Lizzie Dillon
Looney Bergonzi/Cellist/ Down and Out/Oscar de Velt - Cassie Fletcher
Roxy Robinson/Foreign Reporter/Dancer/ Boxer - Nina Kulmasova
Shoulders/Foreign Reporter/ Dancer/ Boxer - Eve Kulmasova
Babyface/Down and Out/Marbini - Alex Carmichael
Violinist/Dancer/Policeman/Bad Guy - Nuala Schweppe
Paperboy/Down and Out/ Dancer/Boxer - Eloise Smart
Yonkers/Boxer - Jake Tyne

And so we approached the end of our 100th. year

And how better to end it than with a rip-roaring pantomime that has not one but two dames

-oh yes it does.
We present the ever popular
The People’s first pantomime was a production of “Babes in the Wood” staged in 1931 in our brand new Rye Hill theatre. It was followed up in 1936 by “Babes in Hollywood” which was co-written by Colin Veitch, the one time captain of Newcastle United Football Club. There was then rather a long gap to the next one we did which was a production of Aladdin in 1969. Since then the panto has been a regular highlight of our year not to mention the fact it helps pay for the rest of the season.

This is our fifth production of Cinderella and I am sure it won’t be the last.

Cast 20111
Fairy Godmother - Kath Frazer
Cinderella - Lyndsey Fenn
Baron - Tony Childs
Buttons - Tayler McCullough
Prunella - Kevin Gibson
Prisella - Keith Wigham
Dandini - Moira Valentine
Prince - Bryan Watson
VILLAGERS OF HAPPYDOM; Lords, Ladies and Trees:
Pia Schuchert, Brooke Leete, Pamela Birleson, Selina Farthing,
Leigh Denley, Alisha Peart, Miranda Barty-Taylor, Jayne Dunn,
Emily Foster, Sakeenat Tijani, Tom Carr, Tom McLaughlin,
Lewis Cuthbert, Beth Baxter, Helen Eltringham, Katie Patterson,
Celeste Hay
Lucy Crosier, Jessica Mann, Colby Denley, Sam Craig-Scorer,
Hannah Hall, Sam Smith, Georgia Carpenter, Elisha Ewing,
Kane Heslop, Tia Dodds, Anna O'Flaherty, Lewis Brannen,
Keiran Brannen.

Our Artist in Residence
Throughout the centennial year Dave Barden has been scribbling away to produce a series of excellent images that represent what has been going on in the theatre for the last year. It culminated with an excellent exhibition in the Northern Rock Gallery. Here are some of the images.

The Artistic Activity
at the People's Theatre in 2011

Our plays were not the only activities that happened in the People's Theatre building. Below is a list of the activities that went on during our one hundreth year.
In the People’s Theatre Auditorium:
  1. Pygmalion by G. Bernard Shaw — 11 January
  2. Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh — 15 February
  3. A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare - 22 March
  4. Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess — 17 May
  5. The Pitman Painters by Lee Hall — 13 June
  6. Piaf by Pam Gems — 19 July
  7. The Song Thief by Michael Chaplin — 20 September
  8. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by David Edgar — 15 October
  9. Bugsy Malone by Alan Parker & Paul Williams — 23 November
  10. Cinderella by Toby Cooper — 10 December
in the Studio Upstairs:
  1. Never Rains but it Pours by Alison Carr — 05 April
  2. Wordsworth's Sister by Sue Saunders — 05 April
  3. A Spoonful of Honey Tony Gannie — 06 April
  4. Keeping Up With The Joan's by Philip Meeks — 06 April
  5. Kiss of the Spiderwoman by Manuel Puig — 15 November
The Young People’s Theatre productions
  1. Newcastle Youth Theatre Festival – February
  2. The Waterbabies by Charles Kingsley – March
  3. Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare – July
  4. Bugsy Malone by Alan Parker & Paul Williams - 23rd. November
The Northern Rock Gallery exhibitions
  1. Kathleen Gilbert — Home and Away 18th. January
  2. Rose Furlonger — Theatrical Masks 22nd. March
  3. The People’s Painters - 17th. May
  4. The Quintessential North East - 14th. June
  5. Jonathan Stallard—Collection 20th. September
  6. Dave Barden—From the Stage 14th. November
Other Companies using the People's Theatres facilities
  1. Starlight Theatre - 29th. January
  2. Godspell - Heaton Manor School - 2nd. February
  3. Campbell School of Dance - 5th. March
  4. Benfield School - 10th. March
  5. Little Theatre Guild - 22nd. April
  6. Gang Show - 22nd. April
  7. Benfield Colours - 5th. May
  8. Sage Academy - 26th. June
  9. Chillingham Rd School - 30th. June
  10. Sage Academy - 3rd. 7th. & 9th. July
  11. Dorothy Buggy - 28th. July
  12. Casa Bellini - 3rd. September
  13. West Side Story - 6th. September
  14. Sage Academy - 4th. October
  15. Newcastle Male Chorus - 9th. October
  16. Mike Harding – Me, my guitar and some daft stuff - 16th. October
  17. Newcastle Dance Centre - 26th. October
  18. Newcastle Male Chorus - 29th. October
  19. Quinn School of Theatre Dance - 30th. November
  20. Little Gems Dance School - 5th. November

Into the Future.
Our Heaton building is our forth home and we have been in it since 1963. It was originally built in the early 1930s as the Lyric Cinema and is beginning to show all eighty years of its age.
There is life in the old bricks yet, but we need some investment in it - we need some four million pounds [£4,000,000] of investment.
Our Theatres in the past Frieze
These are our four venues, Leazes Park Rooms, the Royal Arcade, Rye Hill and Heaton.

If you would like to make a donation to the People's Theatre refurbishment fund please make your cheques out to "People's Theatre Arts Group" and send them to:-

People's Theatre Venue Manager
Stephenson Rd.
Newcastle upon Tyne

or e-mail for information about other methods of donation to
Turn on JavaScript!
Please remember to let us have your address so that we can claim back the tax paid on your donation.
Our charity registration number is NO.220256.

So that’s that then.

Composite of all plays

Here’s to the next hundred years
The photographs in this web page have been taken by a number of photographers including Jim Mohan, Jerry Cooper and Ron Henry. All images are copyright of the photographers and the People's Theatre Archive ©

Published by the People’s Theatre Arts Group Archive, Stephenson Rd. Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 5QF ©